Inside Technology Organisations: Imaginaries of Digitalisation at Work

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Abstract

Organisations are good places wherein to explore the social dependence and embeddedness of technologies, technological relations, and technological systems. Like organisations, technologies are tied to goal-oriented, purposive action, and thrive on hope and imaginaries, often in a future-oriented manner (e.g. the latest slogans of ‘digitalisation’ and ‘disruption’). The chapter reviews organisational anthropological studies of technology companies, from shop floor ethnographies and studies of organisational culture to the first anthropological studies of computerisation and digital infrastructures. Drawing on ethnographic cases from the robot industry in Germany (interconnected, sensor-equipped, collaborative robots) and the shipping industry in Denmark (digital navigation tools), the chapter demonstrates how powerful imaginaries of digital technological transformation and everyday work experiences with the development and use of digital technologies form the perceptions of decision makers and managers and transform the working lives of operators and navigators. Digitalisation opens up new ways of organising industries, companies, workplaces, and work tasks, but these new ways cannot be predicted or inferred from the technologies. To analyse how digitalisation influences organisational realities, upsets hierarchies, affects professional identities, and changes work practices in multiple, unanticipated ways, the authors resort to the classic organisational anthropological concepts of culture, power, knowledge, and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of the Anthropology of Technology
EditorsMaja Bruun, Ayo Wahlberg, Rachel Douglas-Jones, Cathrine Hasse, Klaus Høyer, Dorthe Brogaard Kristensen, Brit Ross Winthereik
Number of pages21
Place of publicationSingapore
Publication dateMar 2022
Pages485-505
ISBN (Print)978-981-16-7083-1
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-16-7084-8
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Digital technology
  • Navigation
  • Organisational anthropology
  • Robotics
  • Technology companies

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